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Off-Season Needs For Saints

The 2010 season for the New Orleans Saints ended sooner than many expected yesterday when the Seahawks stunned New Orleans in the Emerald City 41-36. Now, looking forward, what do the Saints need to focus on this off-season? Bob Marshall of the Times Picayune has some ideas.

Get a pass rush.

The reason Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck expressed confidence coming into Saturday’s game: In their regular-season meeting, he completed 32 of 44 passes for 366 yards without a sack. Saturday, he saw the same limpid pass rush for most of the day and was 22-of-35 for 272 yards with four touchdowns, one interception — and just one sack.

The Saints need to trade or draft for a speed rusher, especially if they continue to play a blitz-happy defense that leaves their corners in single coverage.

Find an elite deep threat.

The Saints have a corps of excellent pass-catchers in short to medium-range routes, but they don’t have the type of serious deep threat that can stretch the field.

Often this season, and especially Saturday, Drew Brees looked deep, then checked down, or tried to force the ball deep into double coverage, or had to hold onto the ball too long waiting for a receiver to become open.

Opponents also seemed much more willing to blitz Brees this season, a chance defenses don’t often take against an elite quarterback if it means leaving an elite wide receiver facing single coverage.

Find more running backs

Your ground game hasn’t struck fear into opposing defenses for the past year and a half. Don’t spend the offseason counting on any of your backs to be a consistent threat next season, because all have been too fragile to make it through 16 games.

Overhaul your return and coverage teams.

As every coach knows, special teams are one-third of any game, and the Saints usually lost that phase. Their returners didn’t pose much of a threat, and their coverage teams were usually a high point — for the other team.

As NFL coaches know, losing your last game makes for a long offseason, even longer if the loss comes in the playoffs.

Read full article here: http://www.nola.com/saints/index.ssf/2011/01/new_orleans_saints_offseason_t.html

I would add athletic linebacker to that list. Jonathan Vilma is a pro bowler and an elite middle linebacker in the NFL. However, Scott Shanle isn’t getting younger. Jo-Lunn Dunbar and Danny Clark (who was signed after training camp) doulbed up as starters when Jonathan Casillas was lost for the year during the preseason. A young, elite, athletic linebacker on the weakside or the strongside should definitely be a priority this spring.

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